When Tesla began working for him, Edison had just invented the electric light bulb, but he needed a system to distribute the electricity. Edison had designed a DC (direct current) system, but he couldn't make it work right and offered $50,000.00 to anyone could fix the machine! When Tesla solved the problem, Edison took back the offer saying that “it was just a joke.” So,Tesla quit. Edison immediately took out the patent for the (now working) direct current motor in his own name!
In school, we were taught that Edison was some kind of genius, but from what I’ve been reading, it seems to me that Edison was really a greedy, opportunist who became rich by claiming the inventions of his employees, cheating them out of the profits due them, and then vindictively smearing those who stood up to him.
Since Tesla knew about the problems with DC electrical power, after he left Edison he came up with a better idea – Alternating Current or AC. Today, everything runs on the A/C system.
Did Tesla get rich off this idea and get his revenge on Edison? Nope. Unfortunately, Tesla was working for George Westinghouse when he came up with this invention. Just as Edison had done, Mr. Westinghouse provided the funding for the inventor’s research and then stole the patent for himself.
Men like Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse have always been around to interfere with the development of something new or something better. Why? If someone is financially invested in the status quo, there is no incentive for them to embrace any kind of change. It’s all about politics and money. That’s why the use of solar power still hasn’t kicked in.
Big Fossil Fuel Industries lobby to stop any subsidies for alternate energy because they are making huge profits from coal and oil. They’d rather drill in Alaska, run pipelines under the river in Yellowstone and spill oil in the Gulf of Mexico,even though the most abundant resource available to us is the Sun – because sunlight is free! The cost is in manufacturing the solar cells.
Without the government subsidies available to fund the production of solar cells, we are forced to depend upon coal and oil. Legislation follows the money. Most people can figure costs, but few can measure values.
After Tesla left Westinghouse he came up with a lot of other great ideas. He solved problems in engineering, physics, steam turbines, magnetism and robotics. He used the power from Niagara Falls to make the first hydroelectric power plant! He created a 130-foot long bolt of lightning in his lab and wirelessly lit 200 light bulbs from a power source 26 miles away. He even came up with a way to clean the human body of germs using electricity! But, unfortunately, he kept most of the designs for his inventions in his head. After his earlier experiences with sponsors do you blame him?
One of his ideas was for something he called “Free Energy”. He thought that a generator could pull electrostatic energy from the Earth’s atmosphere, which could then be broadcast to other locations through the ground.
“We are whirling through endless space, with an inconceivable speed, all around everything is spinning, everything is moving, everywhere there is energy. There must be some way of availing ourselves of this energy more directly. Then, with the light obtained from the medium, with the power derived from it, with every form of energy obtained without effort, from the store forever inexhaustible, humanity will advance with giant strides. The mere contemplation of these magnificent possibilities expand our minds, strengthens our hopes and fills our hearts with supreme delight.”
- Nikola Tesla
If true, this invention could have produced a never-ending supply of power for the entire planet! However, when he died in 1943, the FBI confiscated all of Tesla’s paperwork. I guess we may never know, but the idea and the possibility is still ...exciting.
“When the great truth accidentally revealed and experimentally confirmed is fully recognized, that this planet, with all its appalling immensity, is to electric currents virtually no more than a small metal ball and that by this fact many possibilities, each baffling imagination and of incalculable consequence, are rendered absolutely sure of accomplishment; when the first plant is inaugurated and it is shown that a telegraphic message, almost as secret and non-interferable as a thought, can be transmitted to any terrestrial distance, the sound of the human voice, with all its intonations and inflections, faithfully and instantly reproduced at any other point of the globe, the energy of a waterfall made available for supplying light, heat or motive power, anywhere — on sea, or land, or high in the air — humanity will be like an ant heap stirred up with a stick: See the excitement coming!”
- Nikola Tesla
Links to Library Books Available on This Subject:
The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt
Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and the race to electrify the world by Jill Jonnes
The Tesla Papers by Nikola Tesla
Wizard: the life and times of Nikola Tesla:biography of a genius by Marc J. Seifer